What’s more important employee or customer care?


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I was asked great questions yesterday by two very different audiences (one a diverse group of business leaders and the other a convocation of students at the Monfort School of Business).  I’ll pass along one of those questions as well as my answer and then turn that question back to you?

What is more important to a business’ success the engagement of your employee or the engagement of your customer?

My answer was essentially:

“Which do you love more your first born or your second born?   Both forms of engagement are important but different.  It is rare to have employee engagement and not customer engagement but it is possible.  Imagine a workplace whether the employees love their jobs but they are not extending that love to the customers.  It’s unlikely but it occasionally happens.  In such a situation, employees have a great time but fail to get the message that they are not just at work to be served. Similarly, it’s almost impossible to have a business where customers are delighted by employees that hate their jobs.  This rare situation happens when staff are so professional that they dont’ let the lousy treatment they receive from their employer pass through to the customer. Neither situation is sustainable!  While a casual relationship between employee engagement and customer engagement can’t be established a VERY strong correlation exists.  In the end, the real issue is what are you doing to improve both forms of engagement?”

How would you answer the same question?

Moreover, how does your answer inform targets for improving the long term success of your business?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joseph Michelli, Ph.D.
Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., an organizational consultant and the chief experience officer of The Michelli Experience, authored The New Gold Standard: 5 Leadership Principles for Creating a Legendary Customer Experience Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and the best-selling The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary.


  1. I think the first journey is the simplest and most obvious: employee engagement translates into a high standard customer experience. But perhaps it depends on the type of “engagement”. If that is just “having fun” at work (we have a pinball machine and great coffee), then that might not have any external influence. If it is about the work, employees feeling empowered, in charge and excited about what they do, I believe it can’t help but to reflect on to the customers.

  2. Thanks for commenting on the blog! A pinball machine and great coffee! I am there. Your’s is a rare and cherishable workplace. Happy employees make happy customers!


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